LA Tech opens series with Friday sweep of UTSA

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RUSTON, La. – The Louisiana Tech baseball team saw a masterful pitching performance from starter Matt Miller in a game one, 4-2 victory over UTSA, followed up by an 8-7 comeback victory in game two, as the Bulldogs swept the Friday doubleheader over the visiting Roadrunners from J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.

With the wins, LA Tech (20-10, 7-4 C-USA) clinched its third consecutive league series and has secured victories in eight of its last 10 contests.

“I’m very proud of our guys for the way they fought in game one against one of the best pitchers in our league,” head coach Lane Burroughs remarked. “The two guys we faced today were two of the top three ERA’s in our league, and we were able to come away with two wins. That says something about our team and our hitters. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys for holding the rope and staying together today.”

Game One Recap
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Bulldogs clinched a 4-2 triumph behind arguably the best start of the year from senior captain Matt Miller.

The right-hander tossed eight complete innings, allowing just four hits, while striking out seven and walking three. Miller began the ninth inning, looking for the complete game, but was relieved after he allowed a pair of Roadrunners to reach.

Senior closer Braxton Smith worked around a two-out error from Taylor Young at short, that allowed a pair of unearned runs to score, and struck out the side for his fifth save of the year.

The Bulldogs were the aggressors early on in the first contest, striking for three of UTSA starter Karan Patel in the third inning. Freshman designated hitter Philip Matulia jumpstarted the offense with a one-out single to right for the first hit of the game for either team, followed up by a beautifully executed hit and run, as Young singled through the left side, placing runners at the corners with one out. Junior second baseman Hunter Wells then began the scoring with an opposite field blast lined just over the wall in left field, giving Tech an early 3-0 lead.

Miller kept the Roadrunners off the board in both the fourth and fifth innings before Tech added another run in the bottom of the fifth. The Bulldogs would load the bases in the frame, keyed by an error on the shortstop Grimes. With the bags full, Parker Bates grounded into a double play, but Tech plated another run, taking a 4-0 lead.

Patel (2-4) was the losing pitching of record, tossing six innings, while allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned), while striking out five and walking two.

Young and Mallard both notched multi-hit efforts, while Wells led the way with his three RBI.

Game Two Recap
In the second leg of the Friday twinbill, Tech found itself on the wrong end of a 5-0 deficit after the first 4.5 innings.

The Roadrunners were the aggressors in the second game of the day, plating four in the top of the fourth off Tech starter Logan Robbins. The visitors broke out the long ball in the frame, as Jonathan Tapia launched a three-run-blast to open the scoring, followed shortly thereafter by a solo shot to left from the no. 9 hitter, Hunter Grimes.

Leading 4-0, UTSA added to the lead in the top of the fifth on a sac fly to right from catcher Nick Thornquist, extending the edge to 5-0.

However, in the bottom half of the inning, the Tech offense broke through for a crooked number off UTSA starter Slater Foust.

The Bulldogs got three consecutive one-out singles from Hunter Wells, Mason Mallard and Parker Bates, which loaded the bases. After new reliever Hunter Mason got a swinging strikeout of Steele Netterville for the second out of the inning, Tech third baseman Tanner Huddleston delivered with a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner, drawing Tech back to within two at 5-3. Then, a UTSA fielding error plated another run as Huddleston trotted home to score as a routine grounder to short from Shelton Wallace was misplayed. Following a Chris Clayton single and a Manny Garcia walk, Young worked a four-pitch walk, tying the game up at five.

In a now tie ballgame in the top of the sixth, UTSA’s Grimes stuck for his second home run of the game, launching a solo shot to left off new Tech reliever Bryce Fagan.

Junior Tyler Follis entered in relief of Fagan and retired the side, keeping Tech connected.

After Tech was held off the board in the bottom of the sixth, UTSA added another run in the top of the seventh after Follis walked Bryan Sturges, who stole second and then advanced to third and eventually scored on a pair of wild pitches. Southpaw Kyle Griffen entered in relief and snagged a sharp grounder back to the mound to retire the side.

Trailing now 7-5, the Bulldog offense rallied back yet again, and took its first lead of the ballgame in the bottom of the seventh. With runners at first and second, Taylor Young lined an RBI single into centerfield, drawing Tech back to within one at 7-6. Then with runners at second and third, Hunter Wells notched his third hit of the day – a clutch two-RBI double to right, plating two and giving Tech its first lead of the game at 8-7.

Now holding a slim one-run lead, Griffen and Johnathan Fincher navigated a scoreless eighth, giving way to senior closer Braxton Smith with an opportunity for his second save of the day.

The right-hander allowed a two-RBI double to left center from Sturges, but rallied back and got a swinging strikeout of Griffin Paxton, preserving the win, and earning his second save of the day, and sixth of the 2019 season.

Three Bulldogs notched three or more hits in the second game as Hunter Wells (3-for-5, 2 RBI), Tanner Huddleston (3-for-5, 3 RBI) and Chris Clayton (3-for-4) combined for nine of Tech’s 15 base knocks as a team.

The Bulldogs and Roadrunners are tentatively scheduled for the weekend finale on Saturday at 2 p.m. With forecasted sever weather in the forecast, be sure to follow @LATechBSB on Twitter for updates and possible schedule changes.

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